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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  July 17, 2011 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> pitts: in the past four and a half years, nearly 40,000 people have been killed in mexico's battle against powerful drug cartels. the violence and corruption is now appearing in places like santiago, a quaint tourist town just a few hours from the u.s. border. last august, santiago's mayor, edelmiro cavazos, was kidnapped and killed. to understand what's happening in mexico, you need to understand what happened in santiago.
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>> logan: what was your biggest win ever on a single bet? >> the biggest bet i have ever made on any sporting event was last year's super bowl, and i bet $3.5 million on new orleans. >> logan: wow. billy walters is one of the most successful gamblers in america. he wins so much, that many las vegas book makers afraid to take his bets. what makes him so good? he agreed to let us inside his secret betting operation to show us how he does it. >> he is the most dangerous sports better in the history of nevada, in the history of the world. >> simon: you won't find them in america, anymore. in fact, they are hard to find anywhere. they hunt by night and sleep by day. but on a trip through brazil's wetlands, we spotted the elusive and powerful jaguar in more places than we expected. >> look at her.
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god, she is beautiful. >> simon: it even surprised some scientists we were with. >> this is a rare sight. i've never caught them in the water, i've never gotten it in the water before. >> i am steve kroft. >> i am lesley stahl. >> i am bob simon. >> i am lara logan. >> i am byron pitts. >> i am scott pelley, those stories tonight on "60 minutes." after college, i moved back in with my parents. i was worried about 'em, you know? i mean for instance my mom went to bed tonight before making my dinner. which is fine, i mean i, i know how to make dinner. it just starts to make you wonder. is this what happens when you age? my friends used to say i was the lucky one. i had the fun parents. where's the fun now? night, guys. [ sighs ] ♪ [ male announcer ] toyota venza. keep on rolling.
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years, nearly than 40,000 people have been killed in mexico's battle against powerful drug cartels. the violence and corruption is now appearing in places that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago-- places like santiago, a quaint tourist town just a few hours from the u.s. border. last august, santiago's mayor, edelmiro cavazos, was kidnapped and killed. to understand what's happening in mexico, you need to understand what happened in santiago. as we first told you in january, there and elsewhere around the country, drug cartels armed with guns and cash are forcing a choice on politicians and law enforcement. that choice, as beleaguered mexicans put it, is between silver or lead-- take a bribe or a bullet. tell me about your husband. >> veronica cavazos: he's a very special man. i'm still in love with him. >> pitts: veronica cavazos and her husband, edelmiro, were
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enjoying a good life, raising three children. he was a successful lawyer with a family-run real estate business. then, in november, 2009, at the age of 38, cavazos was elected mayor of santiago, a picturesque town where he and his wife grew up. born to be mayor, you think? >> cavazos: probably. he had this special light, this special feeling of helping people since he was a kid. >> pitts: but veronica was worried. >> cavazos: it was a dangerous time to be the mayor, in my opinion. >> pitts: he was well known. you all were comfortable financially. so why do this? >> cavazos: and you know what his answer was. "there is something i can do to help my town, to help my people. and that's the way i'll do it." >> pitts: cavazos was eager and everywhere. he could be found with a smile at civic presentations and at every improvement project. he had no apprehension about the job?
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>> cavazos: no. he was a dreamer, i think. >> pitts: a dreamer, your husband? what did he dream for santiago? >> cavazos: a perfect place for his kids. >> pitts: santiago dates back to the 1600s. its history and natural setting make it a popular tourist destination. but beneath the postcard appearance is another santiago, a place important to drug traffickers. the town straddles the major highway from the drug producing regions of southern mexico and south america. controlling santiago makes it easier to move shipments north to monterrey. from there, the marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines are shipped to cities on the border three hours away, and smuggled into the united states. >> ramon garza: so from that place, you can go anywhere in the border. >> pitts: so, in many ways, the drug world intersects at santiago? >> garza: exactly. >> pitts: ramon garza has been an investigative journalist in mexico for 35 years.
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he says santiago became a safe haven for wealthy drug cartel bosses who blended in with the town's other wealthy residents. >> garza: it's a place where you can hide your activities, because it's a place for tourism, for... for nice homes, for weekends. >> pitts: and for years, the drug trafficking organization in control of the region, including monterrey and santiago, was the gulf cartel. their enforcers-- the zetas, a ruthless gang that started with former army officers from mexico's elite special forces. hired guns. >> garza: hired... >> pitts: well-trained hired guns. >> garza: well-trained... it... they were like a... like a swat. >> pitts: trained originally to go after the cartels... >> garza: exactly. >> pitts: ...and now they're part of the cartel. >> garza: exactly. they became the army for the cartels. >> pitts: in february 2010, only three months after becoming mayor, cavazos was caught in a feud when the two cartels split. by then, many of santiago's police were on the payroll for one of the cartels.
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cavazos later disciplined some of the officers for extortion. so, cavazos thought he was in control of everything. >> garza: he wanted to be in control of everything. >> pitts: but he wasn't. >> garza: he knew... he knew that he was not in control, because i had a chance to talk to him several months before his killing. he was worried of the police department. >> pitts: worried, because of the corruption. >> garza: of the corruption. he didn't know exactly who do they work for. >> pitts: he's not willing to look the other way. >> garza: he wanted the police department to be... to be the cleanest possible and not to be involved with the group of cartels. that's what he wanted. >> pitts: and that was dangerous, to want that. >> garza: well, because, at that moment, the police department didn't belong exactly to the mayor or to the county. >> pitts: so their uniform may have said, "santiago police department." >> garza: exactly, but in reality, they were working for
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the cartels. >> pitts: mexico's four-and-a- half-year war against drug trafficking has led to chaos and bloodshed. many of the nearly 40,000 drug- related deaths are due to the criminals killing each other. but not always. >> cavazos: i was worried about him. everybody was. my mother-in-law also was worried about his life. >> pitts: if cavazos was worried, he never told his family. last august 15, the mayor was in santiago's town square, celebrating international youth day. it was the last time townspeople would see him alive. with his family visiting relatives in texas, cavazos went home to an empty house. a security camera captured what happened next. we've sped up the video. it shows the police officer who guarded the house at night walking towards an approaching line of cars.
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when they pulled up to the front, armed men got out. another camera caught the gunmen threatening cavazos at the door. moments later, he was pushed into the back seat of the lead vehicle. the police guard walked to the car behind and got inside. in less than three minutes, the kidnapping was over. the surveillance camera at his house, how important was that to your investigation? >> alejandro garza y garza: very important. >> pitts: when we met him, alejandro garza y garza was the attorney general for the state of nuevo leon, the lead agency in the cavazos investigation. he says, when the police guard was found the next morning, he claimed he was also a victim. >> garza y garza: and he say he was be... he has been kidnapped with the mayor. >> pitts: but the video showed he had not been kidnapped. >> garza y garza: that's right. that's right. >> pitts: at the cavazos home, family waited hours by the phone for a ransom demand. none was made. >> cavazos: when i saw that this wasn't for money, i suspected that this wouldn't have a happy ending. because he loved his town so much.
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and since... beginning, he wanted to do things right. >> pitts: he would not negotiate? >> cavazos: no. >> pitts: he would not be bought? >> cavazos: uh-uh. that's exactly what happened. >> pitts: two days after he was kidnapped, the body of edelmiro cavazos was found dumped by the side of a road in santiago. were they trying to send a message in the way in which they killed him, in the place in which they dumped his body? >> garza y garza: the message of the bad people is that "we don't stop with anybody. we can kill people. we can kill policemen. we can kill mayors. we can kill everybody." >> pitts: santiago was stunned when state investigators arrested six of the town's police officers for their alleged role in his kidnapping and murder, including the man assigned to protect the cavazos home. the state's case against the officers rests heavily on their confessions. >> garza y garza: we have testimony of six or seven
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policemen that say that they thought he was working for the other cartel. mayor cavazos was against them. so that's why they kill him. >> cavazos: when they captured some of the persons that were involved, they said that to the authorities. "he didn't want us to do our job. so, he was like a rock in the way, and we just took him away." >> pitts: a rock in the way? >> cavazos: for them. for the rest of the town, and for me, he was our light. >> pitts: by week's end, the people of santiago were back in the town square to pay their final respects to the mayor. ( applause ) earlier, his wife veronica had bid a private farewell. >> cavazos: i thank him. i thank him... >> pitts: you thanked him? >> cavazos: uh-huh. >> pitts: for? >> cavazos: for all the happy moments we lived together.
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for my three kids. for letting me being a witness of all the good things he made through life. >> pitts: santiago today is sad and fearful, and tourists are staying away. journalist ramon garza says another casualty of the drug war is trust. >> garza: how many people want to work at the police department in santiago now? >> pitts: long line of people applying for jobs? >> garza: no. nobody want to be a police anymore here. why? because they know if they have to go, they have to go-- silver or lead. >> pitts: silver or lead. >> garza: yes. >> pitts: either you take the money and live, or reject the money and die. >> garza: exactly. >> pitts: taking the money from the drug cartels has been an easy choice for many police officers, with starting salaries at only $500 a month. >> jorge domene: they are very easy to be corrupt because of...
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>> pitts: because the cartels can pay more? >> domene: much more. >> pitts: how much more? >> domene: double. >> pitts: jorge domene is director of public security in the state of nuevo leon. he says that, for now, the drug cartels hold the upper hand with both silver and lead. >> domene: there's no police in mexico that can fight the cartels in terms of the level of equipment they... they have. >> pitts: what... what kind of equipment would a police officer in santiago have? >> domene: a pistol. that's it. >> pitts: the cartels, what... what do they carry? >> domene: ( laughs ) you name it. whatever comes to your mind, they have it. ak-47, ar-15. >> pitts: so it sounds like local police are bringing a pocket knife to a gunfight? >> domene: right. you're like tarzan against rambo. >> pitts: domene is directing a new effort to eliminate all local police departments in nuevo leon, including santiago's. in their place would be a state police force that is better trained, better equipped, and even more important, better paid-- professionals, he hopes,
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that won't be corrupted. how long before you think the cartels decide, "okay, we'll start paying you more money." >> domene: in my opinion, my experience is a point in time that is not more money; it's your beliefs, your principles. >> pitts: three months after his death, a mass was held to remember edelmiro cavazos. he was one of 14 mayors murdered in mexico in just the past year. in places where the cartels are in control, being a public figure means being a target. no one knows that better than attorney general alejandro garza y garza. his own brother, one of the state's top criminal investigators, was gunned down by a cartel four years ago. >> garza y garza: we're in a war. all mexico is in a war against the cartels. but in this war, the bad guys, they don't have any rules.
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>> cbs money watch update. >> mitchell: good evening, former top rupert murdoch aid rebecca brooks was arrested today. since the hacking scandal broke, news corp's took has dropped 15%. gas rose to an average of $3.68 a gallon, and the final harry potter movie took in almost $369 million. potter movie took in almost $369 million. that's a weekend record. i'm russ mitchell. cbs news.
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but some high rollers beat the odds win consistently. and there's no one better at winning than billy walters. he bets on football and basketball, says he's worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and is so successful that many las vegas bookmakers are afraid to even take his bets. billy walters has been almost as elusive as howard hughes, avoiding publicity, reluctant to reveal his secrets. but, as we reported earlier this year, after three decades of unprecedented success, the man who calls himself a kentucky hillbilly agreed to open the door into his betting life in las vegas-- a life he describes as one long hustle, in betting parlors, in pool rooms, and on the golf course. when billy walters golfs, it's mostly for fun. he used to make his living off it. and he showed us how the hustle worked with gene mccarlie, an
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old friend and casino owner. who's the better golfer? >> billy walters: he is. >> gene mccarlie: he is. by far. believe me. >> logan: how much money have you taken off him over the years? >> walters: when i met him, he was driving an old cadillac full of bullet holes. ( laughter ) had no air conditioning. now, he's a very wealthy man. >> logan: on the day we went along, the two buddies decided to play for $5,000 a hole, with a few side bets along the way. >> walters: gene? >> mccarlie: yeah, bill? >> walters: what's the price? >> mccarlie: five-to-one for birdie. >> walters: i'll take 15. >> mccarlie: ten. >> walters: you got it for a dime. >> mccarlie: all right. >> logan: billy just missed this 60-foot putt, but after only three holes, he was up $17,000. small potatoes for billy walters. what's the most you've ever made on a hole? >> walters: on one hole? >> logan: yeah. >> walters: probably $400,000. >> logan: what was the most you ever made on a round of golf?
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what did you take home? >> walters: probably a million bucks, around a million dollars. >> logan: that's a lot of money. >> walters: yes. i never got to bed with it. i lost it all in the horseshoe hotel, playing blackjack before i went to bed. >> logan: is there anything you don't gamble on? >> walters: not really. >> logan: he gambled on the super bowl last year, and won $3.5 million. nevada is the only state in the country where taking bets on individual games is legal. most bettors come here, to a sports book inside the casino, to lay their bets, wagering $2.5 billion every year. and there's no bigger bettor than billy walters. but you'll never see him betting. he has anonymous partners here and in other sports books who bet for him and for themselves. they take their instructions from billy. >> walters: let's wait on that game.
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i think we'll get one and a half. what about the packers? >> logan: he's holed up in his home office with his phones and computers. on this sunday morning in december, just an hour before the first nfl kick-off, he looks more like a stock broker than a gambler, checking the numbers and phoning his bet orders to his partners in the sports books. >> walters: okay, i need up to $250,000 on green bay, up to... up to $150,000 on cleveland. >> logan: that's $400,000 he's betting on just two nfl games. >> walters: where do you see the charger total? look at 46 only for up to $40,000. 146-- up to $140,000. game 132-- where do you see the cowboy total? 51 and a half only for up to $30,000. >> logan: how much money did you just bet? >> walters: let's see, 225, 325, 525, 550, 750, 900, 11-- 1,230, 1,270, 1,370. it's a $1,370,000, plus 10%. that's how much i risk. >> logan: average sunday morning of football? >> walters: yeah. i would say that, before the day's over, i'll probably end up with, i don't know, maybe
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$2 million at risk. >> logan: over the years, people have spied on walters, even rifled through his trash, trying to learn what teams he's betting on and how much he's betting. to protect his operation from prying eyes, walters has become obsessed with security and secrecy. all of his partners use code names, like "j-bird" and "wolfman." >> walters: wolfman, we want to take new england plus three and a half and three. >> logan: can you tell me who wolfman is? >> walters: he's a retired disc jockey. >> logan: he is not. come on. >> walters: he has a nickname. he prefers to be called "wolfman." that's what i call him, wolfman. >> logan: billy walters has also built a brain trust of consultants, most of them mathematicians and experts on everything from weather conditions to player injuries. he told us they act like analysts for a hedge fund manager. so, information is key.
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i mean, it sounds like you track every single detail that could possibly affect the outcomes of these games and these teams. >> walters: yes. it gets presented to me, i evaluate it, and i determine what i'm going to do. >> logan: the information is so valuable that walters keeps it all to himself. his consultants have all worked with him for 30 years, but they've never met each other. >> walters: they don't know each other. they don't talk to each other. the only common denominator is me. >> logan: you're the only one that knows everybody. >> walters: correct. >> logan: there's one of them you say is a savant. why? >> walters: he can name every player on that team. he knew whether they were a freshman, a junior, a sophomore. he knew who the backup was. and this was strictly by recall. it was the most amazing thing i've ever seen. he would have an opinion on an outcome of a game. and he would be right many, many times. >> logan: being right on his football bets this sunday morning made billy walters $300,000. add in thursday night's game, and he netted close to a million.
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in walters hillbilly-speak, it was all "chicken." his bets on college basketball were less successful. >> walters: i didn't fare too well with those games. yesterday was a feather day-- as we refer to in our household. it was feathers yesterday. there was no chicken. >> logan: so you lost a lot of money? >> walters: yeah, i... i had a pretty bad day. the net loss... i lost $257,200. i could lose again today, i could lose again next week. i've had losing weeks, i've had losing months. >> logan: but never a losing year. >> walters: never a losing year. >> logan: and in sports betting, that is unprecedented. is there anyone else like billy walters? does anyone else do business the way he does in this town? >> kenny white: no one close, no one close. >> logan: kenny white is one of the most respected odds-makers in las vegas. what's his reputation in this town? >> white: that he's a shark and a whale. he's a great white. >> logan: what does it mean? >> white: oh, it means he's
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pr... he's the most dangerous sports better in the history of nevada, history of the world. >> logan: is he respected? >> white: oh, well respected. yes, very... >> logan: feared? >> white: yes. oh, feared, yes. >> logan: and why is that? >> white: that's the damage that he can do to a sports book. >> logan: all his winnings have made billy walters a very rich man. he lives large, like a corporate titan. he and his wife susan travel in a brand-new jet worth $20 million that they use to travel to their seven homes. billy walters also gives millions to charities. he insisted on taking us to his favorite, opportunity village, which trains intellectually handicapped people to perform jobs in las vegas. it's all close to his heart, because he has a son with serious brain damage. billy walters was born dirt poor in the small town of munfordville, kentucky. he was raised by his grandmother.
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his mother had three kids by the time she was 17. billy says she drank and wasn't around much. he was hanging out in pool halls before most kids his age even knew what gambling was. >> walters: i started shooting pool when i was five. when i was six, i played a game of nine ball for a penny. >> logan: were you any good at pool? >> walters: i got to be decent at pool, yes. by the time i was 13, i was a decent pool player. i was pretty decent. >> logan: were you making money? >> walters: yes. i probably had some situations where i won $4,000, $5,000 or something. but not when i was 13. that didn't come along till i was, like, 15 or 16. >> logan: well, you're practically an old man, at that point. in 1980, billy moved to las vegas, after he was convicted of bookmaking in kentucky. his new home became the casino, where he played poker and craps. >> walters: roll that ten! two blocks of fives!
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>> logan: come to mama! billy told us he was broke more times than he can remember. but to billy walters, the game was always more important than the money. are you a hustler? >> walters: what's the definition of a hustler? >> logan: i take that as a yes. >> walters: to me in, life, there's... you're either one of two-- you're either a hustler or you're being hustled. and, you know, there's an old saying amongst gamblers-- if you look around a room and you can't find the mark, you're the mark. ( laughter ) >> logan: billy walters joined a now infamous syndicate called the computer group, which revolutionized sports betting in the 1980s by feeding data into computers. the group made so much money that authorities thought they were running an illegal bookmaking operation. later, walters was also accused of money laundering and having connections to the mob. how many times have you been indicted? >> walters: four. i was indicted three times by the attorney general's office in
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nevada for the same thing. i got indicted, went to court; it was thrown out. i got re-indicted for the same thing, went to court again; it was thrown out. got re-indicted again, went to court again-- finally, the third time, it was thrown out and that was the end of it. >> logan: none of the charges stuck, and walters went on to build his own betting business. he became better than the bookmakers at predicting which team would win and by what margin. that margin of victory is called the "spread" or the "line." now, your lines are often different from the bookmakers' lines. >> walters: yes, substantially. >> logan: what do you do, in that situation? >> walters: the bigger the difference between the lines, the bigger the discrepancy, the larger bet i make. >> logan: what's unique about walters is that, when he doesn't like the line, he can sometimes force the bookmakers to change it. >> walters: we're going to work on this a little bit. this number's gotten a little away from us.
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>> logan: here, walters thinks the favorite is going to win, but he doesn't like the line. so he bets on the underdog. >> walters: okay, we're going to phony a game up here. we're going to play 539... >> logan: bookmakers need the same amount of money on both sides of the game, so they respond to walters' bet by lowering the line to attract more money on the favorite. that's when walters springs into action and instructs his partners to simultaneously make an even bigger bet on the favorite. >> walters: go, go, go. kansas state minus up to eight and a half. let's roll. >> logan: unlike some bookmakers, lee amaitis is not afraid to take billy walters' bets in the sports book at the "m" casino. he knows billy is dangerous, but says it's an advantage to know what he's thinking. billy sometimes bets on both sides to move the line, and... and he sometimes makes money that way. >> lee amaitis: i think he is one of the best at it. he'll... he'll circle in on games that he knows the lines are soft.
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and he'll push that line to where he wants it to be, and then he'll take the other side of that. >> logan: does he have the power to move your lines? >> amaitis: of course, he does. he's billy walters. of course, he has the power to move our lines. >> logan: billy walters has built an empire from his gambling. and at the age of 65, he isn't slowing down. he owns four golf courses, including this one, ten car dealerships, and a ton of stock. but it was on wall street, he says, where he was taken for a ride. >> walters: i've been swindled out of quite a bit of money on the stock market. and i bought a lot of enron stock once, and i got swindled. i bought a lot of worldcom stock-- got swindled. i bought a lot of tyco stock-- i got swindled. >> logan: his disdain for wall street is one of the reasons billy walters decided to talk to us-- a chance, he says, to make the point that the gambling world is not as shady as most people think. >> walters: i ran into a lot of... a lot of bad guys, a lot of... a lot of thieves. i mean, they'd steal the lord's supper. but i can tell you, percentage- wise, i ran into many more with suits and ties on than i have with... with the gamblers. >> logan: so you would say that the hustler from vegas got hustled by wall street?
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are ready to do it again. siemens. answers. >> simon: we name fancy cars and sports teams after them, but precious few people have ever seen a jaguar in the wild. they don't live in the united states anymore, and can only be found in the sweltering jungles and wetlands of central and south america. but just try to find one. as we first reported earlier this year, they hunt by night and sleep by day, comfortably concealed in thick, dark brush. it's because of their elusive nature, their power, and their beauty that jaguars have long been worshipped by tribes as demigods whose real home is a spiritual world which man cannot even fathom. but whichever world they
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frequent, they only emerge, briefly, during the dry season when they go down to rivers to drink. so when it got dry, and alan rabinowitz, the world's foremost authority on jaguars, invited us to go with him to some far-flung wetlands in brazil near the bolivian border, we picked up the phone and booked our flights. we headed towards an unspoiled, remote area called the pantanal, where the temperature rarely dipped below 115 degrees. we had to cross more than 125 rustic wooden bridges over dried up ponds and lakes, home to piranhas and caymans, cousins to the crocodile. it was good to be in a car. we started our search for jaguars on the cuiaba river with alan rabinowitz, the ceo of panthera, a new conservation group.
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he told us that jaguars are very fast and have been known to kill people. it was good to be in a boat. rabinowitz has been studying the cats' migration routes and habitats in the jungle for 30 years. but he has gone months without seeing a single one. his advice to us-- get lucky. >> alan rabinowitz: it takes hours and hours of doing this, because even when they're out there, it's... it's almost needle in a haystack. even though this is the densest, highest concentration of jaguars matching any place on earth, there's still a limited number of jaguars here. >> simon: but luck was a lady that day. it wasn't long before we caught our first glimpse-- and it was just a glimpse-- of a young jaguar, sitting on the river bank behind that fallen tree. if you can't see him clearly, well, neither could we. but rabinowitz... >> rabinowitz: its head is right there. amazing. see it? you got it, it's beautiful. see it?
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isn't that something? this gives you the real gut feel of the secretive nature of this animal. there's no sign of defeat in its face. >> simon: at dawn the next day, we went looking for jaguars again. one of our spotters tried to tempt the cats out of the jungle, but his simulated mating call... ( cooing sound ) >> simon: ...just didn't do it. but it might have appealed to anacondas. this fellow is medium sized, according to the spotters. nine feet long. then, we went up a small river that looked like an aquatic garden of eden. no jaguars here, either, but an extraordinary assembly of birds... and others.
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we saw a family of very rare giant river otters, basking in the sun after a morning of fishing and swimming. we saw the world's largest rodents-- unflappable hundred- pound capybaras, a favorite dish of jaguars. jaguars like caiman, as well. this caiman was having lunch. this one had been somebody else's lunch, probably a jaguar's. >> steve winter: small. it's a young jaguar. >> simon: photographer steve winter has been a jaguar groupie for years, and was helping us look for the cats. he has shot what could be the finest jaguar portraits ever taken. they weren't easy to come by. >> winter: i spent the first three months in the jungle and got a big fat zero. >> simon: really? >> winter: no cats. no. >> simon: three months? >> winter: right. >> simon: how'd you feel about that? >> winter: i felt like my career was over. ( laughter )
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>> simon: we were beginning to feel the same way, so we headed out again at night. our spotters told us they could see the reflection of their lights in the eyes of a jaguar 100 yards away. we were skeptical. we were wrong. >> rabinowitz: that's like 80 to 85 kilos. that's a relatively small jaguar in this area. look at her. god, she's beautiful. oh, man, and then she looks right at you. >> simon: it's one of the most beautiful things i have ever seen. >> rabinowitz: yeah, this was a great sighting. >> simon: but the best was yet to come. a few minutes later, we happened to be there as a jaguar swam from one side of the river to the other. it was a once-in-a-lifetime shot in the dark. >> rabinowitz: this is a rare sight. i've never caught them in the water. i've never gotten them in the
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water before. that was a young one. >> simon: dr. alan rabinowitz-- zoologist, scholar, scientist-- was as excited as a kid at the zoo. perhaps more excited. >> rabinowitz: that was spectacular. i've never seen that before. what luck. what unbelievable luck-- just as it's swimming across. there was no fear there. there was just pure curiosity, like, "what are you guys bothering me about?" ( laughs ) >> simon: maybe we had bothered her, because she disappeared. but then, it seems, she got curious again. >> rabinowitz: look at that. it's just sitting up there on the mound. that's phenomenal. >> simon: she looked a little sleepy or confused. but there she was, the diva, perfectly lit, taking her curtain call. it was hard to imagine that this lovely starlet was really a ferocious predator, who sinks her fangs into the skull of her prey, killing it instantly. we were beginning to understand
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why jaguars were viewed as other worldly beings by the tribes that used to live here. because he is a creature of the night, his real home is said to be the underworld, which he dominates, just as he dominates the jungle. killing a jaguar is believed by some tribes as being equivalent to killing an ancestor, and is said to condemn the killer to eternal damnation. that myth has helped the jaguar survive. and in the strangest way, jaguars helped alan rabinowitz survive. it all began with a debilitating condition he suffered through, even before he knew what a jaguar was. >> rabinowitz: when i was a young child, i couldn't speak. i had a severe, severe stutter. >> simon: you literally couldn't talk? >> rabinowitz: i could talk, but i had severe blocks. my whole body would spasm. my... my mouth would close shut. and back then, unlike now, they thought it was completely psychological.
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now, we know it's more genetic. so they... they would put me in special classes. they would put me in what all the kids called "the retarded classes." and i just stopped trying. i stopped even trying to speak to the human world. what i could do... stutterers can sing without stuttering, and i couldn't sing very well. and stutterers can speak to animals. and every day, i'd come home from school and i'd go into my closet, because i loved being in the dark. and i'd speak to my green turtles or chameleons or lizards or garter snakes. if i was having a particularly bad week at school, which often happened, my father would take me to the bronx zoo. >> simon: and that's where his fascination, his obsession, began-- in the bronx zoo. >> rabinowitz: one pitiful, lone jaguar sat in the great cat house. it was big, it was... it was powerful. and i was... and it was all alone. and i was so incredibly attracted to that one lone jaguar.
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i would make my father stay back, and i would lean over towards the bars and i would start talking... >> simon: you talked... >> rabinowitz: the jaguar. >> simon: the jaguar? >> rabinowitz: i did talk to the jaguar. >> simon: do you remember what you said? >> rabinowitz: i would say how people are stupid, how they don't understand me-- clearly, the same way they don't understand you. how they're locking you up in this cage the... the way i'm locked up in my own head. those are the things i would... i would talk about to the jaguar. i made a promise over and over again that if i ever got my voice back, that somehow i would help that animal. help that jaguar, help these animals like him. >> simon: alan rabinowitz has kept his promise. devotion to jaguars became his religion. before he got married, he lived alone in the jungle, just to be close to jaguars, doing then what he does now-- learning more about them every day, setting up traps like this one so that he can attach radio collars to their necks.
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one night, alan and his team snared this young lady and put her to sleep for a while. this is the same cat we saw swimming this afternoon, is it? >> rabinowitz: it's likely. it looks as if it probably is. >> simon: the team monitored the jaguar's vital signs, took a blood sample, and put a gps unit around her neck. >> rabinowitz: it's through the data of a few animals like this that we're able to be saving this whole species. >> simon: and here's a jaguar we saw from the sky. the data rabinowitz has collected showed him that jaguars instinctively travel great distances, sometimes hundreds of miles. trouble is, they can't any more. cattle ranches now interrupt their old roaming routes. and ranchers kill jaguars, because jaguars eat their cattle. that's where billionaire tom kaplan, the co-founder of panthera, the outfit trying to
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save jaguars, comes in. he's buying up ranches and telling the ranchers-- his employees now-- to lay off the jaguars. to make sure they understand that there's been a change of ownership, he's introduced a new branding iron-- the paw print of a jaguar. he's also winning them over the old fashioned way-- improving their lives, building schools and clinics. >> tom kaplan: there is no better way to stop poaching than to make the local community say, "hey, wait a minute, our children have medicine and education because of the jaguar." when you show that, you've won their hearts and you've won their minds, and then you've won the war. >> simon: alan rabinowitz wants the jaguars to be able to roam freely again, so he's working with governments, as well as ranchers, to protect what he calls jaguar corridors. they connect the different isolated areas where the cats
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are still thriving. he gets to these areas sometimes, and sometimes he gets too close. now, how far away are you from him? >> rabinowitz: i would say about 20 feet. >> simon: 20 feet? >> rabinowitz: yeah. >> simon: and he is standing, sitting, lying? >> rabinowitz: he was standing. then, probably within a few seconds, i realized this is dangerous. and i fell. of course, you know, what... what more could happen? so i fell backwards, thinking, "okay, if you want to kill me, now... now's the time. i'm on my back." and the jaguar just stood up and started walking off into the jungle, not very far away. but this is what i'll never forget-- it turned back to me, it gave a low growl. it wasn't a... it wasn't an aggressive growl. it just gave kind of a low, growling sound, and it looked at me. and i looked at it. and i could look in its eyes not... now with no fear. and i said to it, i said out loud, "we're okay now. we're going to be okay."
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>> simon: alan rabinowitz can only hope he'll be okay. he conquered his stutter, but now he's fighting leukemia, and doesn't know how much longer he'll be able to stay in the jungle. but before we left, he told us he was happy that, after his 30 years of devotion, we'd be introducing so many of his friends on "60 minutes." [ birds chirping ] ♪ mmm! hot fudge sundae?!? ♪ new wild strawberry?!? ♪ [ female announcer ] over 25 flavors of kellogg's pop-tarts... and they're all for fun & fun for all. pop-tarts. made for fun. at exxon and mobil, wen engineer smart gasoline that works at the molecular level to help your engine
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>> kroft: i'm steve kroft, we will be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." i read an article... well, i read the majority of an article online
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